August Short Story: Happy Hour

This story was first serialised in 31 daily parts during August 2020 via the @MoveablePress and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 5pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

It also forms the basis of a larger, flash fiction (250 words) based narrative under the umbrella title of ‘The Nexus Bar and Grill’ which is available to read and enjoy for $15 a month (plus a ton of other content) on my Patreon.

Click here to become a Patron.


Happy Hour

Prophet Red Amis, adjunct of Chan, First of the Ears of Foundation, now grasps a place in the Universe.

During day three in the asteroid belt, between too much alcohol and far too little sleep, for the first time more than just their thoughts can be heard in the womxn’s brain. Amis isn’t sure at first, wonders perhaps this could be more interference on the container’s comlink: it wouldn’t be the first time since they left Moon orbit, except that’s crew commands, machine chatter. This is music, unlike anything they’ve heard; sad, yet achingly beautiful.

Within the flowing progressions, without doubt, are words: sudden panic sets in, need to write communication down before it’s forgotten. The basic Container Plus cabin deal is BBS: bed, bathroom, screen. It is a good thing all Firsts are taught Lateral Thinking during training. The Prophet wouldn’t be here in the first place had they not exhibited exemplary skills during their final year of Psychic Attunement. With no idea of how much more might yet be revealed, or what revelations subsequently could emerge, this impromptu space must be used with care.

Looking down to their right index finger, a spot of blood appears on command.

Let First Words be drawn; Mind will record, message from history that contains everything.

‘their Past reminds
no action fixed
take Present tense
control, defined
Future is ours
all in good time…’


There are rules here, just like anywhere else. Be respectful and polite; no Swipe no Drink, Jukebox Ver. 3.5 is all we have. Please stop asking ‘why not a karaoke upgrade?’ The United Space Agencies never considered catering or entertainment as priorities and probably never will. This ship is not a luxury liner, it’s a scheduled transport, so expecting waiter service or me to come bring breakfast to your cabin ain’t happening. Once this trip took seven months, now it’s six weeks, because two thirds of this bucket is matter engines, and we’re just screwed on the front.

You can do Earth to Mars in 42 days on the Mankind’s Optimism, so why would anybody want to live in a converted container for that long? They do though, without fail. Sixteen fools shoved into cargo space. I’d never wanna be that close to the engines. That’s why I sleep in here. Between freezer and grill’s been home now for almost a decade: not gonna lie, it’s the best job ever. Pay’s going straight into Mineral Bonds: four trips from now I get to retire, for good. I’m going back to the Moon, home to the dark side. There’s a poetry in that I appreciate.

Not the Sith, Syd Barrett: quintessentially English singer, songwriter, musician who co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965. I was born exactly 100 years after the band was formed, in the place they made musically their own. I know he left them before that album was made… Don’t start with me about music trivia, because not only will I own your ass, but set fire to it before ejecting the ashes into space. Welcome to the Nexus Bar and Grill: I am your host, sous chef, fry cook and the only guy on board who knows all the porn channel access codes.

NOBODY is having sex on this bucket, of that you can be absolutely assured: everybody has personal VR however, so this is the currency that really matters. Except today, maybe there is more to consume these 46 claustrophobic minds than just trivia quizzes and personal pleasure… Today is different. Can’t tell you why, no means to describe it: start with the best night’s sleep I’ve had for dunno how long, maybe since a bed on a planet and not this hammock in space. Everything seems… brighter, cleaner. That’s actually a thing, especially here – I’m late.

05:45 ship time: technically I gotta open for business in fifteen, except nobody’s awake until at least 08:00. Except, today there he sits, surly, outside the glass, staring at a space where I’ll stand to start warming up the grills. It’s only an illusion, but still. He’s creepy.

Today, he can sit: I’m gonna watch him for a change.


This is an odd man, undoubtedly, and I’d wager he’s gaining particular pleasure trying to unsettle me. In all my years as an OffWorld Process Server this has to be the most convoluted subpoena process I’ve ever instigated. It’s also fair to say my client is one of the most obnoxiously horrendous individuals I have ever met. What motivates me, right now, is the effectively free round trip to and from the Red Planet, plus a pay cheque that will cancel every outstanding debt I’ve accrued in 35 years.

He believes I’m male, they all do, because no womxn would be stupid enough to do this. You’d think in this day and age people would grasp that there’s more to humanity’s continuing future than dicks and holes, but nope, evolution still has quite a long way to go in that regard. As I sit here, waiting to alter this cook’s future forever, not for the first time does it all feel like a massive waste. When I’m debt free, what then? There’s no plan, never has been. I am, and remain, without a purpose. The thread of motivation is close to breaking for good.

If I were a religious person, would this be easier?


Any perfect storm, when it arrives, is never expected. Universal chaos sees to that, part of the game plan only when you grasp enough of the rules to see beyond your own personal gravity. Humanity’s problem is perception. All these separate, disparate existences, waiting for some undefinable cosmic magic to weave around them, drawing consequences to results, potentials from outcomes. A long time ago a human being speculated how such threads in cosmic chaos might be predicted, and was right, but…

…only to the point where mankind was somehow the most important factor to consider. That’s where Isaac Asimov was wrong. If Humanity were the only intelligent life that existed in the Universe, his theories might have held more credence. They are not alone, just as yet unaware. Those who understand that time’s linear nature is the most dangerous restriction ever placed in a human mind, also grasp that assuming you are the most morally superior intelligence because there’s never been anything else as comparison will undoubtedly present consequences.

When the arrogant look back on their First Contact experience, in centuries to come, history will, as it always does, conveniently forget their contribution. Those of us able to look both back and forward grasp the significance of painting a bigger picture, with broader strokes. Except if Humanity is ever truly to evolve past its inescapable ego, it is a moment for those individual’s outlooks to be presented, challenged and summarily reinvented. Our job here is simple: provide the tools, step back, and see if the semi ape-descendants can bring the goods.

It’s all we’ve ever done since the dawn of this Universe.

Let’s just not talk about how we broke the last one and had to start again, okay?


Prophet Red Amis, adjunct of Chan, First of the Ears of Foundation, regains consciousness and takes a moment to grasp what happened.

This ship is no longer moving. Rapid deceleration normally indicates engine failure, yet if that were true there’d be alarms, compartments sealing automatically, panic. None of these currently exist. The Prophet is aware everyone else is unconscious except two unaffected minds. A male cook, plus the asexual courier remain unaware of what is transpiring around them. Nothing in their worlds has altered, not one iota, yet the Prophet understands, only too well, absolutely everything else has. Then there is that third presence, directly outside their cabin.

As old as the Universe, and that which had come before, ancient energy regards Red Amis with increasing interest. This arrival, overheard by accident, significance of moment already grasped; suddenly removed from linear time, womxn resisted command sent to everyone else to sleep.

You are aware of my energy, not afraid of its origin

“You are a prophecy I have grasped since childhood.”

Red Amis speaks to the space where before was nothing and now exists… motion, fractal expansion, molecules that hold no human form yet are undoubtedly human in origin… before blissfully for a second, two entities become the same, one space for the same atoms, seamlessly overlapping before suddenly, the presence has vanished.

Then, all the womxn can do is laugh, because the answer to everything was only ever going to be another question.


For exactly seven minutes and twelve seconds on September 21st, 2099, the container vessel NSS Utopia Planitia appeared to vanish before reappearing on Martian radar. Automated reporting put this down to a system glitch.

History would remember it with slightly more significance.


Enjoy Yourself

Hopefully, by the end of today, I’ll have all the pieces of Patreon content in place to be accessed by those kind enough to be paying me for Premium Content. This also includes the free (but password protected) content for Newsletter subscribers: I’d hoped to have it done by the 15th, but as we have discussed previously, I’m still struggling with the notion of timescales. Once this is all fixed, I will be turning my mind to the idea of further monetising this site.

Since Patreon began, the amount of original content here has effectively reduced to just blogs. I do not intend to go back and lock off any older work to monetise, but admit that some of it is now not representative of the current direction. Therefore, starting next month, we’ll be rationalising everything and deciding what stays and goes. To give you an insight of where that will take the site long term, here are some of my early thoughts.

  • Short stories continue unabated: I have used this month’s story as a lead into new Patreon content, and that story will be saved and advertised as an encouragement for people to sign-up. Starting in September we’ll go back to stand alones, with a plan in 2021 to produce a full set of twelve stories across the year. These are so popular that I’ll just keep running them until people stop reading them. No charge, just stories.

  • Publishing news: I currently have two poems due in anthologies for publication before the end of the year. You’ll see news here before anywhere else. That’s the point of having a public presence, after all. I’ll also use the Newsletter to keep you up to date with events as they happen. What is likely to happen is that starting in September posting frequency here will move to twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Short Stories will always publish on the first of the month regardless.

  • Episodic Fiction: I have promised myself we’ll have EX/WHI restarted this year. We can do that quite easily, and so starting in October, it will appear on Thursdays. Once it’s done I’ll provide a complete .PDF as Premium Content. I already have a new story in the works as a follow on, but that will be completely tied to my subscription model. I’d expect to see that appearing sometime in Q1 of 2021.

This is a slow and thoughtful rationalization of everything that I produce. I hope you’ll join me as things alter, and we enter this new phase of my professional career as a writer, because that is what this is, a genuine progression of content and output.

Paris, Texas

This week’s a bit of a HonestyFest: no, this isn’t another virtual collection of hastily pulled-together people on a Zoom call, I probably know enough people to maybe rustle up three people tops. I’m pretty certain one of them doesn’t have a webcam anyway. What the poetry has done we’ve discussed on Monday, and I mentioned then in passing a long-form piece which contains a lot of early mental trauma as a starting point to where things should move next.

I read it all yesterday, in a couple of sittings. Structural integrity is about 80%, if it were any less I’d have not decided to go public so fast on Patreon. It will be serialised, starting in September, because it is complete. I just needed the nerve and the impetus to push it to the finish line. I’ve tried and failed to get it accepted as a stand-alone work, and there’s just not enough energy right now to move down that path. Instead, it is perfect work to repurpose as subscription fodder.

The timing here is almost… well, prophetic.

Those of you REALLY paying attention will know this took eighteen years to write. With the edit coming up, we’ll call it a round twenty. It’s made the finish line as my NaNo project a while back, and I’ve had it sitting as a back burner project since February. I was fully ready to return, but with a view to try to push for grown up publication. This way makes an enormous amount of sense as an alternative. More significantly, it opens up the Patreon as ‘not just poetry’ and that’s really rather important right now.

This year I become a ‘proper’ published poet, not just a competition winner: I saw the proof of that poem in the Places of Poetry document today, for the first time, and let out a little squeal of delight. More work will be published, I can guarantee you that, but as yet there’s only been lip service granted to what is something that drives a lot of my interest as an adult. Storytelling has always been a goal. The Twitter short story has shown me the market exists. Now it is time to do the things I don’t like: selling both this and me.

As it happens, this is something I am getting used to.

There will need to be a synopsis, and I don’t want to give too much away by doing so. You’ll get introductions to characters and probably some vignettes for each. Mostly however, there is the soundtrack, which I’ll do more justice than has previously been the case. This was the novel that began my obsession with music as background to action, and I’m listening to it now as I type. It’s about to be revisited after a couple of years, with some new pieces added.

I am genuinely excited for this addition to my Patreon.

EX/WHI :: Part 23

Previous Part :: Next Part


Arrival Plus One

The night before they won, she realised that nothing would ever be the same again.

Lying awake, Ami watches the man sleeping next to her on his own camp-bed with a mixture of disbelief and reassurance. He’s just as scared as I am, when all is said and done. At least now there’s no embarrassment or worry admitting that in public. Chris and her had talked for several hours after dinner was done, until their plates and uneaten food had vanished from in front of them. It had been taken as a prompt that their ‘captors’ wanted them in beds, a second one having been provided next to that which they’d both slept in previously.

She’d woken as was nearly always the case when her internal body clock hit 7am, to find that their world had been significantly reduced in size and depth: their note-taking space remained but new dividers had appeared: a single sofa and table, plus chairs were shifted against one wall, with what were clearly washing cubicles added opposite. It should worry her that nothing was constant any more but instead Ami’s brain is surprisingly willing to accommodate alteration.

Today is when we are to be tested. Chris had been surprisingly frank on her return from the bathroom: they were both now comfortable with the alien presences that had manifested within them, enough joint sanctity to be confident that this experiment, in whatever form, would be no different from a planned training operation. That meant at some point they’d be provided with equipment: as the thought manifests, so do two large wooden crates at the bottom of each bed.

Now she’s up, looking through what is being provided: fresh clothing and food, no new shoes or backpacks, so they’ll be expected to reuse what was provided yesterday. Chris is stirring and she takes it as a prompt, out of bed and into one of the two cubicles where towels hang next to a shower unit that switches on the moment she’s naked. There’s no need for temperature control either, water just pleasantly hot enough as to not be scalding but damn close, and Ami smiles to herself.

My captors have thought of everything.

There’s no fear either that her partner might take a leaf out of a fictional secret agent’s play-book and come join her: he might be built like 007, but Special Agent Chambers possesses considerably more respect for her than James Bond ever did for his partners.

He’s now also awake and showering…


Previous Part :: Next Part

 

The Slightest Touch

How did January change your outlook on life?

Thirty-one days feels like about three months, looking back on what I achieved: nearly thirty-nine hours of exercise. Thirteen thousand calories burnt. Every day, even when I curled up in a ball and cried, there was still work done. I’ve completed the first portion of Mental health Champion training. Eight separate literary submissions. Significant developments in my personal ability to cope plus maintain momentum and progress.

All of this did not happen by magic.

Undoubtedly, progress came from adversity: my unexpected tooth extraction (which is still not 100% healed, and will be addressed next week) wasn’t where this all started. We have to go back to the ultimatum from my Doctor (or rather the head Practice Nurse) to change my diet and lifestyle. I tucked into my first pizza last night for what was probably four months plus. It was lovely, but I’m not sad to go back to training tomorrow.

You see, for a long time there was never really an acceptance of my own shortcomings in some key areas. Once that happened, and pressure was on to lose weight not for vanity or appearance but to improve my health, a lot of stuff stopped mattering. It helps that I know what’s been causing mental instability for years. It’s also useful to know how that can sometimes unexpectedly manifest. All of this is about learning.

In January, I finally learnt to accept what I really am.

Now therefore it is all about using this month as a foundation to build something fundamentally stronger and more attractive: that’s a subjective word to use in this context, but there are reasons for doing so. I know what I like, and what looks attractive to me. So, therefore, it is time to share that with a wider audience. This isn’t about me either, but things that are around me: how I see and make the world.

Other people may not agree with my ideas: this is something I’m used to. However, if true creativity is going to be released and expanded upon, that’s an obvious content of sharing work on a wider stage. It’s not about being liked, but appreciated. It’s trying to make others see the ideas I’m trying to build from using words and imagery. Honestly it doesn’t matter about anything else except that process.

This is about art created for the first time ever exactly as I see fit.

finallgetsit

I learnt a lot about myself this month, that’s for sure. The direction of my poetry is changing. Short stories are about to become a far bigger deal than they were, and novels need far more love than they are getting. On top of all of this, however, there’s a resilience that never existed until this moment right now, and it is time to make the most of every moment presented to me.

That’s still something that needs work on, if truth be told.

[PS: as part of this process, I’ve realised that EX/WHI will need a bit longer to get up to date than I’d originally anticipated: therefore it’ll be back next Friday then every other one going forward until I can build up some momentum with the narrative. Again, its finding time, and that is getting progressively easier.]

EX/WHI :: Part 22

Previous Part :: Next Part


In a blink, Chris is no longer in the restaurant: instead this is broad daylight and he is at some considerable height, standing on a smooth, white platform. There he also is, standing opposite, making eye contact with himself; that Chambers, in a future he is yet to experience, is holding both of Ami’s hands, clearly struggling to get her to understand something important, quite possibly vital. There’s no context either, too far away to hear any conversation taking place.

The aliens are showing me this for a reason, he surmises, but too much information and the future might not happen. How do they make him certain of upcoming importance but at the same time not destroy the sanctity of a timeline they don’t adhere to but he is bound by? The answer is presented without any other prompt, consciousness grasping three intractable truths: jump, gasp then let go. Moments are placed in his head, but access restricted.

When time comes, you’ll know what to do.

He’ll see himself at each flashpoint: first moment will unlock second: the last will be the most pain he has ever experienced. The alien in his mind is careful not to draw attention to where these pieces of his future are tied, or what prompts them to manifest after this first encounter. It’s vital intelligence, on a need to know basis. When Part One is done, he’ll get access to the next part of this puzzle, for that’s what begins tomorrow morning.

None of what has transpired until now has been significant: they’ve been kept together and given time to bond. When they both wake up, that is when the real experiment begins. The word, in his head, is presented not as something insidious, but rather a challenge. Is he up to the tasks that will be presented? Can he complete the sequence correctly and complete what is asked of him?

There’s never been a physical obstacle that’s overcome Chris’ ability to either brute force it or solve it in time with common sense and bravado. This will be no different: his abilities, plus Ami’s calm and determination under pressure will combine and whatever is waiting for them both will be surmounted, together. He doesn’t need the reassurance of a shared bed any longer.

Returned to the dinner table, Chambers finally understands significance of what is to come.


Previous Part :: Next Part

 

Love What You Do

I’ve learnt a lot in the past year. Most of that’s come in the form of just how much time things take to work out the way you want them. Therefore, planning early and often has become the watch phrase. It means I’ve cheekily skipped last week’s episodic fiction to ensure the next part of the story is told properly, and in the way it needs to be. Most of you won’t notice the changes happening, of course, but for me they are life savers.

That means February’s mostly planned. Paper Hearts is gonna be my Instagram project: bit of poetry, some photography, nothing too fancy. Some days, just gonna be words. I like the idea of not being totally focussed on imagery this time. However, there has to be a LOT of work on the other parts of my equation, and now there’s no immediate timescale around certain projects, this can all be achieved in a far less stressful environment.

February also has some things to look forward to on top of the scheduled.

spidermaster

It’s Time to Talk day on February 6th (effectively two weeks from now) and there will be many words in my various places online during that period. I’ve also booked a creative writing workshop for the following week, so there’s something more to talk about than my own projects. Plus, there is the aborted from this month Video Content that will finally see the light of day.

Also, we get a SUPER BONUS FREE DAY on the 29th that isn’t normally there at all and it would be a foolish woman who did not plan something special for that. So I will, except as of right now I am not entirely certain what this thing will be. It’s going to be clever and massive and may actually involve tea (both beverage and mealtime) now I come to think of it and OH YES THAT’S A BRILLIANT IDEA…

Better go write this down whilst I remember it…

Sky High

We have reached the ‘Something has to Give’ portion of this month and sadly, it’s the most labour-intensive part of a larger equation that’s going to suffer. I’ve submitted to SIX different things so far this month, and with Red October January being labour intensive PLUS the Mental health Champion Training I’m not gonna lie, there’s really not been time for anything else. 

That includes self-care and family time as well, and as a result something really needs to give. Therefore, the video’s being put back to the end of February, the 28th to be precise, which will now allow me to tackle the backlog building so the website does not fall any further behind. It also gives me Sunday off this week which I intend to use doing as little as possible with a 5k run inserted somewhere.

Also, that header’s redundant. The poem I was going to use has changed.

A World of Colour

The new work is to tie in with video content I’ve already partially researched, and therefore this gives me more time to create summat that I have previous knowledge of. Don’t worry, the original poem will have its day in the sun, just not yet. It’s also given me a bit of space to work on what has ended up as a very submissions heavy month. These do tend to take quite a bit out of me, as I’m now discovering.

When everything was tentatively planned in December the actual workload was not really that clear: now it is, this gives me sufficient time and space to look past what’s happening now and plan ahead. I want a short story or two written as well going forward, as these are looking like an increasingly useful way of setting myself up a revenue stream. At some point, if I want progress, there has to be cash coming in.

The good news is that I’m getting a long weekend mid-February at the same Resort Parc (TM) where summer holiday turned into hospital stay. Let’s hope for everybody concerned there’s no repeat of that, and that I can spend a few days not worrying about anything except relaxing and enjoying myself. Once that’s done, it’ll be time to start working out the content for March, then we’re three months into the year…

Blimey, doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun.

EX/WHI :: Part Twenty-One

Previous Part :: Next Part


Chris feels her lie deep in his gut; there’s more to her ‘conversation’ with the aliens than Ami feels comfortable letting on. He could ask, but this is not the time. Dishonesty’s not a sleight, rather used to assuage his fear over performance anxiety, with reasons he knows are both fair and accurate. There’s a damn good reason he’s not been on a date in over a year. Those blue pills his doctor prescribed might fix the mechanics, but did nothing for his head.

It makes perfect sense to abduct one male and female. It’s why Noah shoved two of everything in the Ark, Bible’s writers leaving rest to the imagination of their readers. If this is an exercise in testing all their abilities… he knows now that’s not something his partner is willing to indulge in, not without far more than just a single evening out under their belts. That alone makes Chris feel more comfortable than has been true since their arrival.

Excusing herself to go to the unisex bathroom he used before they started dinner, Chambers sits alone, staring at a battered Rolex that reads just before 11pm. It’s Bishop’s idea that they keep themselves tied to London time as it exists on their wrists; the more normality that can be self-imposed the better. Whatever else might be happening around them plus within a fledgling shared consciousness, comfort and belief mattered above all else.

He’d thought briefly about asking to share a camp-bed, mostly because he was shit scared and needed reassurance, then considered the messages that might send her which are all kinds of wrong. Right now, he cannot revert to archetype. Strength alone is easy, when you don’t get all the chemical stuff as distraction. She’d made the point over dinner: if you wanted to truly test a species for suitability, there’s gonna be a point where loyalty to each other would be addressed.

It’s also hard to escape jealousy; she’d been shown consequences of failure in her mind and he hadn’t. His experiences of the aliens is far less detailed or interactive: it shouldn’t bother him, but worryingly does. His conscious initially struggled to even grasp the enormity of their situation, yet something is altering. Fear should never allow emotional responses to dictate experience, and yet it has, every time. Personal failure, parenting, relationships, decision-making…

Your importance is about to become apparent.


Previous Part :: Next Part

 

June Short Story: Indigo

This story was first serialised in 30 daily parts during June 2019 via the @MoveablePress and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 4pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

Enjoy.


Indigo

Many ancient cultures, when presented with technology for the first time, were wary of its power over them. Stories persist, as aborigines and native Americans initially encountered cameras, that they refused to pose, fearing that a portion of their soul could be stolen forever. Such fears were clearly borne from ignorance, inability to grasp how technology would transform then improved our lives, extending longevity and enhancing experience. Watching my daughter’s tiny form on ultrasound, this first picture of her is most precious of captured moments.

I take picture of her ultrasound, uploading it to a Cloud already stuffed full of a lifetime’s worth of moments: college, first real date, holidays and home. The Bean’s mother and I, trying for five years; last round of IVF finally, blissfully rewarding persistent determination. Then comes a moment of instant, inescapable fear: should I do this? Once, when a picture was taken, the only way to share was by hand, passing prints to Grandma and Uncle. Now in a moment, the World can see, smile and coo. What a beautiful foetus you have both created with love.

Abbie’s staring from her position on examination couch: not for the first time, it is as if she reads my thoughts. ‘Delete that, please,’ and I do, without a second thought. Grannies can see the original. Uncle Chris too. Let’s do our pregnancy journey differently than expected.

Technology doesn’t need to dictate everything.


I buy film for the first time since college, black and white: it will be easier to develop at home. The Internet provides everything required to build a darkroom in the shed, re-purposed for my task. This is the right thing to do. Abbie picks up a pencil, carefully draws Bean in her womb, first time I’ve seen her do so in years. There’s enough money in the bank right now that she need not go back to work after the birth: relief is palpable, joyous. Something fundamental altered during our IVF experience.

There are those who don’t understand, of course: why no baby shower? Where are the Instagram updates of Abbie’s body shape changes, baby room progress? Having worked so hard to finally create life, why on earth aren’t you making an effort to share this journey with everyone else? We lie together, night after night, talking through fears. Best friends understand reticence to share, admit jealousy we can live without validation. At least one couple are doing the same, trying to disconnect. There’s growing disapproval at work at the effect technology has on lives.

Life is so fragile, precarious, and we’re reminded of this six months into the pregnancy. My mother has a stroke and within 48 hours she’s gone, nothing medical staff can do. Two massive bleeds, separate hemispheres of her brain. She never regains consciousness to say goodbye. Leaving Abbie in London, I travel up to Manchester to arrange a funeral: no service, or wake. A simple goodbye, and then she’s ash, to be scattered on Ilkley Moor. This massive house, my home for two decades, seems like a great place to start history anew with new, precious life.

With mortgage paid for, furniture and fittings good for many years, time to employ Abbie’s brother Chris to oversee refitting and updating this house as a family home. All work is kept in the family, everybody can turn the tragedy into something positive: we’re all back north. However, Bean will enter the world in London: Abbie doesn’t need more stress, I have no desire to generate extra work than we’ll both soon possess with a newborn. The few friends we still talk to locally happily offer to help shift and relocate lives: loss is slowly rationalised.

I’m aware of the Digital Freedom Act being implemented across media only in passing: when own circumstances radically change, it’s easy to block out bigger issues. When government happily voted for reverses decades of austerity, supports vulnerable and needy, there’s no problem. What isn’t expected is that Eleanor Ruby Freeman will become one of the first children born who are bio-tagged at birth. There are no need for pictures when your own DNA becomes means by which a definitive ID will always be possible. Photos and faces can be altered, after all…

A tiny chip, inserted into her heel, is used for health professionals to store data on growth and development, vaccinations plus reminders on when boosters and check-ups are scheduled. Eleanor isn’t even phased by the insertion process: other people however feel less sanguine. We discuss our now mandatory implants for several months: is this really a good idea? As with everything else, it is usage that matters most: we won’t augment with recording glasses, audio implants. Others may record us, but we won’t do so electronically ourselves going forward.


Amazingly, we are not alone. The introduction of mandatory DNA recognition corresponds with the collapse of several major social media organisations. Others demonstrate disgust at global oversharing by ignoring all but their local communities, shunning constant internet access. As Eleanor reaches six months old, I finally leave my job in project management. Abbie and I go it alone as traditional signwriters, combining joint art skills in graphic design and illustration. Wherever possible, we barter services for daily necessities or domestic requirements.

This is surprisingly effective when customers sell their own produce: vegetables, fruit and grains become the staples in our household. Meat is a luxury that I learn to live without, chocolate now too expensive for us to ever consider as an option. Our World is changing rapidly. Turn off notifications, shut off outside distractions and no longer are you considered insular, dangerous. Instead, community spirit rises, unopposed: Manchester is a beacon as London’s status as capital city is suddenly, irrevocably wiped from country’s maps almost overnight.

In a dreadful, catastrophic combination of tidal surge and unprecedented rainfall, Thames Barrier fails to hold back an unstoppable torrent of water. Hundreds of thousands of people drown in low lying areas, many refusing to leave their homes thinking warnings were exaggerated. Those who believed the incoming calamity was seriously overplayed by a Government that permanently erred to being overprotective perished alongside those who listened to fake news claims that global warming had been invented as a left wing conspiracy to destabilise big business.

The central database that held country’s DNA ID data was located in East London: as it vanished under a twelve foot tsunami, suddenly it didn’t matter quite so much how the Government identified anybody. As physical backup records survived, humanity went back to what worked best. I mourn friends that have drowned. We take in another couple, known since college, displaced and desperate for somewhere to feel protected. They both tell me privately how I have become their idea of heroic, my values their goal. A new future where care will supersede aspiration.

The country is shrinking, coastal areas rapidly being eroded, flooded and lost forever. Technology that was once lauded as life changing becomes dangerous and potentially frightening. We watch in horror as Sizewell Nuclear Power station suffers a meltdown, irradiating Suffolk. Our culture, when presented with technology, has made such great advances, yet in a year we have regressed decades, possibly far further. We celebrate Eleanor’s first birthday in darkness, candles not on a cake but as only light source. Power is now rationed, as are food, medicines.

However, optimism remains in our home, the larger Community. Adversity has change many who were bitter, angry and lost in the years before. The need to survive and thrive may be absent in some places, but not here. In a way, we were already prepared for working without support. As the future becomes less tech and more graft, I wonder what my parents might now think of all this: hundreds of years of industrial progression has almost totally been eradicated, by a planet that never truly thought through the ecological consequences of massive consumerism.

Eleanor’s birthday gift is hope: we will prevail, rise from consequences of our combined arrogance and make good what has been so broken and destroyed. We have each other, a strong and smart group of friends, joint desire to survive. I can but believe this will be enough for all…